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I sense you want to plead the 5th
July 21, 2008 6:42 AM   Subscribe

For the first time in the Indian state of Maharashtra, life sentences were meted out based on the findings of Brain Electrical Oscillation Signature(BEOS) profiling.

"During BEOS profiling, an accused is asked not to give answers verbally; experiential knowledge is retrieved from his brain. ... The technique detects and differentiates whether the accused was actually involved in committing a crime or only learnt of it. It helps in the reconstruction of events."

The developer of the technique appeared on the BBC Radio show All in the Mind

a PubMed search turned up nothing
posted by Gyan (53 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
This will be awesome for thoughtcrime detection. The best part about this technique is that the examiner and the data are totally incorruptible.
posted by eatyourlunch at 6:53 AM on July 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Anything you think can and will be used against you in a court of law.

So everyone is to become an agent in their own prosecution... that's.... not right. Wait until the Roberts court gets to decide on this one... I can already hear Scalito's thundering dissent "You have the right to not think."
posted by three blind mice at 6:56 AM on July 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


Now that I've filed off my fingerprints, I just have to puncture my eardrums, voiding the "auditory probes." Then I'll be OK.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:57 AM on July 21, 2008


The best part about this technique is that the examiner and the data are totally incorruptible.

Actually, that's the second best part. The best best part is the 100% factual and reliable science.
posted by DU at 6:58 AM on July 21, 2008 [5 favorites]


Actually, the best part would be someone reverse-engineering it to place "experiential knowledge" into a brain, instead of merely retrieving them.
posted by Anderson_Localized at 7:06 AM on July 21, 2008


But then again, uncontrolled fission has always been much easier then self-sustaining fusion reactions.
posted by Anderson_Localized at 7:11 AM on July 21, 2008


(that is not what "reverse-engineering" means--I only mention it because the term is so useful, I'd hate for it to be muddied)
posted by DU at 7:18 AM on July 21, 2008


They're just doing this to create an ultra cool villian for a movie, a 21st Jack the Ripper who takes hallucinogenics before he commits his crimes, he can never be caught!
posted by geoff. at 7:19 AM on July 21, 2008


Well, it may have been a correct use of reverse-engineering. For example the sentence
"the best part would be someone figuring out how it works in order to to place "experiential knowledge" into a brain, instead of merely retrieving them."
is a more reasonable interpretation then
"the best part would be someone making it work backwards to place "experiential knowledge" into a brain, instead of merely retrieving them.".
But each is possible, assuming that's even what you're talking about DU
posted by delmoi at 7:23 AM on July 21, 2008


Geoff. - the singsong babble used by the industrialist in "The Demolished Man" is pretty much the eqivalent of what you suggest.
posted by notsnot at 7:30 AM on July 21, 2008


The scary thing is that this is India. I could understand an American court pulling this shit, but they supposedly understand and care about science there.
posted by Epenthesis at 7:39 AM on July 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


No, the best part is how the convicted must have had great legal representation to question the validity of this entirely new technology that put them away forever.

There simply had to be more to their convictions than this, right? The lack of detail in the news article is chilling.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 7:42 AM on July 21, 2008


I can already hear Scalito's thundering dissent "You have the right to not think."

And they should know.
posted by oaf at 7:52 AM on July 21, 2008


Honest opinion: this is pretty cool... can we by chance do this to our presidents and presidential candidates???

The other honest opinion: omg it is 1984, one of the darker ends, come to life...

*twilight zone theme plays*
posted by JoeXIII007 at 7:58 AM on July 21, 2008


The scary thing is that this is India. I could understand an American court pulling this shit, but they supposedly understand and care about science there.

this is the point at which my jaw would normally have hit the ground, but, well, there's fecal matter all over the ground, and the flies are rather thick, and an urchin may step on my tongue.
posted by quonsar at 7:58 AM on July 21, 2008 [3 favorites]


'Tenser', said the Tensor; 'tension, apprehension, and dissension have begun'
posted by Divine_Wino at 8:01 AM on July 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


this is the point at which my jaw would normally have hit the ground, but, well, there's fecal matter all over the ground, and the flies are rather thick, and an urchin may step on my tongue.

Stay classy, quonsar.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:04 AM on July 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


here's an in-depth power point presentation that gives all the scientific details.
posted by quonsar at 8:07 AM on July 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


In a 2006 interview with the developer, he claims that "only two people in the world have done any significant research in the field of forensic sciences using electrical oscillation". Solid evidence base, there.
posted by Gyan at 8:10 AM on July 21, 2008


On loading quonsar's linked Powerpoint file, I see 3 slides, the last of which says, "Please contact the author/editor of the ICFMT for the complete presentation"
posted by Gyan at 8:12 AM on July 21, 2008


(that is not what "reverse-engineering" means--I only mention it because the term is so useful, I'd hate for it to be muddied)

Ah sorry for the confusion DU, I didn't meant it as "creating something that works in reverse of the original", but as "taking the thing apart, understanding it, and based on that, creating something else that works similarly", but then that is probably not a rigorous meaning of the term either.

Or, what delmoi said.
posted by Anderson_Localized at 8:15 AM on July 21, 2008


.... and let me guess, once they improve their system, they'll call it Oscillation Scanning/2, or OS/2 for short.
posted by Afroblanco at 8:15 AM on July 21, 2008 [5 favorites]


The developer of BEOS is one C.R. Mukundan. He has some articles out there on studying EEG responses of alcoholics and schizophrenics (presumably in laboratory environments): PubMed

and search: (Mukundan CR[Author])

but, as you said, nothing about BEOS. Here's a google scholar search result.

In general ERP studies, calibration (of various forms - hardware, software preprocessing, etc) has to be performed to particular individuals, EACH TIME they come in for an experiment. So it's worrying that something so unreliable as ERP is being used to sentence individuals without any published clinical studies. And even if such studies existed, BEOS indicators (whatever they are) should only be used as evidence, a small part of an entire case - not as the deciding factor.
posted by zonem at 8:53 AM on July 21, 2008


I read that as "life sentences were meted out based on the findings of BeOS profiling." And my first thought was "Wow, they really re-purposed that operating system for evil, didn't they?"
posted by quin at 9:00 AM on July 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


The US already prosecutes thought crimes. They hook sex offenders up to penile plethysmographs and subject them to various images to assess deviant arousal and then base parole conditions on these results. The technology is probably about as reliable as BEOS.
posted by caddis at 9:02 AM on July 21, 2008


man BEOS was the best OS ever.
posted by shmegegge at 9:27 AM on July 21, 2008


The US already prosecutes thought crimes.

A trendy statement, but do you have evidence?
posted by oaf at 9:29 AM on July 21, 2008


that is not what "reverse-engineering" means

I hereby coin the word "inverse-engineering" and grant licensing under the creative commons.

...an ultra cool villian for a movie, a 21st Jack the Ripper who takes hallucinogenics before he commits his crimes...

Hallucinogenics? Nah, just Ambien. And my insurance covers it.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:34 AM on July 21, 2008


aaah! StickyCarpet is a thought crime!
posted by Sam.Burdick at 9:40 AM on July 21, 2008


In other news, thousands more Indian children died today from various diseases that are preventable via modern sanitation methods.

But hey, we've got SCIENCE!
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:45 AM on July 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


The scary thing is that this is India. I could understand an American court pulling this shit, but they supposedly understand and care about science there.

At the risk of overgeneralizing the "mind set" of the most stratified and polycultural society on Earth, I would propose that the problem is that Indians put too much faith in science. Yes, their educational system places heavy emphasis on science and math, but the focus is on rote memorization and not so much on actual science literacy. And of course, there are hundreds of millions of people (who vote) who have very little formal education. Perhaps these people respect the power of Science without understanding its limits. From what I've seen, most Indians think nuclear power (and nuclear weapons) are a pretty good idea and (at least in the media) you don't see much discussion of the controversies involved.

I also think that the rights of the individual in India are not as well defined as the perceived validity of Science. It's easy to see how a guy in a white coat with a slick power point presentation could be quite convincing to a court, especially in a publicized murder case which can generate an enormous amount of public outrage in India, much more so than here. In India, mobs still lynch people accused of heinous crimes.

disclaimer: I love and have enormous respect for Indian people. My opinions are formed entirely on extensive travel there and a moderate amount of reading about current Indian events. I may be entirely wrong and I would be happy to hear someone's alternative take about all of this.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:46 AM on July 21, 2008


Wow. If ever there was a "just because we can, doesn't mean we should" argument...
posted by Thorzdad at 9:47 AM on July 21, 2008


The US already prosecutes thought crimes. They hook sex offenders up to penile plethysmographs and subject them to various images to assess deviant arousal and then base parole conditions on these results.

Surely there's a difference between prosecuting a thought crime and declining to cut short a sentence for an actual crime based on what you surmise a person thinks?
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 9:56 AM on July 21, 2008


A tangent about how this could work:

I've always wondered how brain keeps fact and fiction separated. For example: We know that both Conan O'Brien and Spiderman live in New York, but we know for sure that they haven't met. Spiderman is a fictional character. We know that a) Spiderman can lift a car by himself, but that b) no man can lift a car by himself and c) Spiderman is a man. Because Spiderman is fictional, this doesn't mean that Spiderman can't lift a car. (a) and (b) are somehow claims about separate worlds. My belief that b is not hurt by knowing about Spiderman.

So knowledge about fictional worlds doesn't generally interfere with our resulting beliefs about reality, but how about processing? If we would have to infer for every belief by its consistency with other facts if this was about reality or about some fictional world, wouldn't that be terribly inefficient and lead to human mind to be more efficient by not storing make-believe besides facts at the first place?

One benefit of storing fiction is storing plans about future, possible courses of actions. It is very important that these are not confused with what has happened already.

Maybe beliefs are tagged as fiction in such robust and easily accessed way that myth-worlds, hopes, fears and reality can be reliably kept separated in information processing. That system of filtering by tags has to be really reliable and fast, and we may learn to find how to recognize it in action (from brain imaging, EEG, ...).

Another example of how changes in states of believes are probably inevitable part on how brain functions: Think about difference between state change in "I don't believe that my spouse is deceiving me." and "I know that my spouse is deceiving me." From the second it is impossible to return to the first, even as you or you both would be much happier remaining in that first state. Some kind of truth/reality-function is there and it is beyond our control. Even as knowing fact from fiction is an everyday problem, once we have 'tagged' a belief as one or another, the tag has to stay.

The point is, that we can make a case that something that C R Mukundan is looking for has to exist. We can continue on thinking how this fact/fiction -separation would be best implemented. (And if everyone would be sufficiently interested in SCIENCE!-part of this, these nasty real world uses wouldn't be necessary)
posted by Free word order! at 9:59 AM on July 21, 2008


Also admissable, I hear, is the evidence compiled by that thing the Scientologists at the mall use to determine whether you're bummed out or possessed or whatever. Go Team Science!
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:10 AM on July 21, 2008


Maybe beliefs are tagged as fiction in such robust and easily accessed way that myth-worlds,

An interesting idea, maybe the failure to tag certain ideas leads to the continued existence of easily refutable things like urban legends. Where the person didn't understand that what they were hearing was fiction and it got locked into the part of their mind that regarded it as fact. Even being presented with proof will sometimes not be enough to get them to re-tag the idea.

*delicately tip-toes away from connecting this concept to religion.*
posted by quin at 10:23 AM on July 21, 2008


This is a pretty appalling use of an unproven and imprecise technology. I co-authored a chapter last year on neurophysiological methods in studying behavior and had to review the literature on ERP and EEG. I took a look at the deception literature and there is some indication that ERP can be used to index "guilty knowledge". Particularly the P300 (positive shift in the signal at 300ms) distinguished between items that people have never seen versus those they've seen but are feigning amnesia for.

Of course, this is experimental research which consists of finding modest effects after studying groups of people. I shudder at the idea of anyone extrapolating guilt from single-subject data. Although I wouldn't write it off just yet either. For instance this type of paradigm would work well if the accused claimed never to have seen the victim, ever ever. If they demonstrate guilty knowledge with ERP on the victim but not on other unknown persons, then maybe it could be used as evidence. Then again, the accused as probably seen loads of photos of the victim since, you know... being accused!

Now maybe if the picture was of a murder weapon that only the police and the accused would have knowledge of, and assuming the ERP method was found the be realiable over a broad range of conditions and participants... Maybe then...

Here's the main guy in the field. Links to pubs. Videos. etc.
http://www.psych.northwestern.edu/~rosenfel/research.html
posted by Smegoid at 10:35 AM on July 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


What about those beliefs that it seems like everyone has one or two of, that you would absolutely swear happened, but everyone else assures you did not?

I have very clear memories of a trip to London with my daughter which my wife assures me (and I know she's right) we took when that daughter was still in the womb.

My father-in-law believed for his whole life (he's in his 70's now) that when he was young he fell into the Rhine from a bridge and was nearly drowned. He found out just a couple years ago that it wasn't him, it was his cousin this happened to. Again, he accepts that that's true, but still remembers it happening to him.

I wonder if this machine could distinguish the truth of these memories. That would seem like a pretty good test of it.
posted by rusty at 10:39 AM on July 21, 2008


DU: "(that is not what "reverse-engineering" means--I only mention it because the term is so useful, I'd hate for it to be muddied)"

Actually, I think the term you're looking for in this case is "reversing the polarity", that so called solution from every cheesy sci-fi show that's ever existed.
posted by symbioid at 10:48 AM on July 21, 2008


Another interesting question this raises is: Is it possible to know something to be false, but genuinely believe it to be true at the same time?

This machine, unless it is measuring some sort of inherent capital-R Reality we do not have conscious access to, must necessarily be testing belief more than truth. Is it possible to know that you stabbed someone, but also believe you did not? Could someone with a sufficiently developed capacity for faith move an experiential memory over to the narrative side of the ledger? After all, AA members routinely are advised to "fake it till you make it," meaning to pretend to believe they will never have another drink until it is no longer a fake belief but a true belief. Many have done just that. Could someone purposely re-believe a murder from something they had done to a tale told them by a cellmate? That seems at least as plausible to me as the idea that they could not (i.e. that this technique could truly work).
posted by rusty at 10:55 AM on July 21, 2008


BEOS has already been appreciated by the British Psychological Society

Sure it wasn't the Parapsychological Society?
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 10:57 AM on July 21, 2008


I suspect that this BEOS could be the batmobile of interrogation methods.
posted by mullingitover at 11:01 AM on July 21, 2008


I will have been innocent!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:05 AM on July 21, 2008


And here I thought there would be no good use for BEOS.
posted by Chuffy at 11:25 AM on July 21, 2008


They hook sex offenders up to penile plethysmographs and subject them to various images to assess deviant arousal and then base parole conditions on these results. The technology is probably about as reliable as BEOS.

My understanding is that this technique was ruled unconstitutional recently. I also agree with MPDSEA that there is a difference between determining sentencing based on this, and determining guilt based on it. Not that I necessarily agree with the plethysmograph as a technique.
posted by !Jim at 11:48 AM on July 21, 2008


On another note, I was also surprised to find that drug use seems fairly routine in interrogation processes. BEOS is being used as an alternative to "narco-analysis", which involves giving a suspect drugs, in the hopes that the person will be more forthcoming. Say what you will about the state of the United States' justice system, these techniques would likely not pass the "shadow-of-a-doubt" test.
posted by !Jim at 11:53 AM on July 21, 2008


"Surely there's a difference between prosecuting a thought crime and declining to cut short a sentence for an actual crime based on what you surmise a person thinks?"

Except that you can be imprisoned forever for these crimes if they decide they want to keep you, well after you've served the sentence originally specified by law and or handed down by the court. So yeah, it's thought crime.

I'd also push "he never expressed remorse" as a reason for giving one person a longer sentence than another who did exactly the same thing across that line, albeit barely. It's more properly "lack of social skills crime" I guess.
posted by Naberius at 1:59 PM on July 21, 2008


...an ultra cool villian for a movie, a 21st Jack the Ripper who takes hallucinogenics before he commits his crimes...

that sounds like the perfect plan, as long as he doesn't get caught up watching the entire Bhagavad Gita playing out like a cinema reel in the entrails of his victims.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:36 PM on July 21, 2008


Sounds like BEOS technology is science and religion melted into an indistinguishable black goo and the differences are smoothed away by giving truth a capital T.
posted by chance at 4:53 PM on July 21, 2008


Except that you can be imprisoned forever for these crimes if they decide they want to keep you, well after you've served the sentence originally specified by law and or handed down by the court. So yeah, it's thought crime.

Are you sure the original sentence wasn't indefinite or indeterminate in the first place? And are you sure you're not thinking of civil commitment in a mental institution following release from prison? Both require a court order, I'm pretty sure.

I suppose it's possible that "they" (who?) keep sex offenders in prison after their sentences have run, but I can't recall hearing about such a thing.

Anyway, caddis' original post specifically said "parol," which implies release before the sentence is up. That's what I was replying to.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 5:38 PM on July 21, 2008


The typical parole for these offenses is lifetime parole. If you are not familiar with parole, it is a condition in which even the most minor infractions (got too drunk saturday) can land you back in jail for another couple of years. Lifetime parole is a huge, huge burden. It comes from the high recidivism rates for such crimes, but between the length of the parole and the thought crime policing that comes with it, these poor schmucks are fucked. Now, if that keeps them away from my kids it sounds great, but then probably one in ten of such folk are really a danger. The rest are just dopes, like the drunk asswipe who squeezed some woman's breast at a high school reunion. He should have been punched out, not placed into the sex offender registry. It's like with drug crimes. The hoi poloi gets scared and the pols respond with draconian laws, all the while not changing the laws on things like armed robbery. It is wrong for the kid who sold a few joints to his buds, and the drunk who pawed his friend's wife to serve longer sentences and have much more oppressive parole than some punk who sticks you up with a gun. Our criminal justice system is fucked up, big time. We should lock up the violent criminals and throw away the key and put many of the non-violent offenders into therapy rather than the joint.

Yes, I just lumped sex offenders in with pot smokers, so clarification: if your sex offense is domination of another human being, that is a violent offense and you are hosed (in my legal world), yet not with lifetime monitoring, which is just oppression. If instead you are the schmuck kid who moons the church group, you should probably just get your ass caned, ala Singapore. You won't sit for a week and you will have time to contemplate the benefits of keeping your pants pulled up.
posted by caddis at 10:42 PM on July 21, 2008


Alternatively, the kid could be forced to spend a week alone with the priest.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:37 PM on July 21, 2008


What if the church group are Moonies?
posted by Goofyy at 2:34 AM on July 23, 2008


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